Feeds

Get out the bar, your plane's leaving

Airport meets RFID the 13th

Build a business case: developing custom apps

The selfish sods who hold planes up by lingering in the bar or duty free can now be pinpointed, within 4m, by cheap RFID tags on airline boarding passes.

Samuel L Jackson locates late passengers with RFID

Enough is enough! I'm gonna tag every motherfucking snake on this motherfucking plane!

What the airline does with the information can then depend on passenger status – you're either phoned or personally escorted from the business lounge, or your crappy suitcase doesn't even make onto the plane.

The development is significant because standard commercial readers of the passive RFID tags can have an accuracy rate as low as 77.5 per cent, and have a very limited reading range. Technology developed by the TINA (The INtelligent Airport) project has succeeded in getting 100 per cent reading accuracy, in an area of 100sq m, to within 4m of a tag. The coverage of 100sq m is much large area than has previously been achieved.

TINA is a collaboration between the University of Cambridge, University College London (UCL) and the University of Leeds, and a number of industrial partners. Professor Richard Penty, of the project and Cambridge University, points out that 10 per cent of all airport delays in the UK are down to passengers not boarding the plane on time. “If you have to wait or off-load baggage its very expensive. You can lose your take-off slot.”

Penty jokes that though active RFID tags are used with expensive cargoes, even RyanAir wouldn't baulk at spending the few pence it costs for passive RFID tags to track “lower value items” such as passengers. Its also likely you'll soon be able to commercially print passes with the chips embedded.

The dream is for airport displays to change as a passenger approaches, displaying information about their flight, or a targeted advert. Penty says corridors could carry readers dotted along their length, giving enough “information to know where passengers are and whether they'll be late for their plane.”

The TINA project was created in order to develop a distributed antenna system to provide the wired and wireless infrastructure for next generation airports. See the story here. The system can also supply the 1W needed to power the RFID chips.

Once the TINA crew cracked IDing 100per cent of the tags they felt the results were too slow. Penty says that when you're rewarding quickly you lose accuracy. Fortunately, as Intel make the firmware and transceiver for an RFID reader (the Intel R1000), this allowed the TINA team to do a bit of modding, but not as much as they'd like.

The project has demonstrated 100 per cent accuracy at 100 tags per second. “We can do several times faster once we can access the chipset opcode,” says Penty.

For a comparison, the team have been putting themselves against commercial RFID readers which have been achieving 36 tags per second with 77.5 per cent accuracy. Over the 100sq m the commercial readers are managing 55 per cent accuracy within 4m, compared with TINA's 100 per cent.

An interesting aside here is that though using passive RFID chips and readers is much cheaper than using barcodes and scanners for checking baggage, the historical lack of accuracy of current systems has made it pointless to use. That hasn't stopped a small number of doing so. Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) is the biggest to have gone RFID, joined by Milan Malpensa and Lisbon. Heathrow has investigated it but decided not to go ahead.

“If you have to intervene with one in 10 items manually, it's expensive and not worth doing,” says Penty.

HKIA is part of the TINA project, probably hoping to get the RFID element rolled out sharpish.

Penty was discussing TINA's work at UCL's Crime Science Conference. For security purposes the RFID tags can check who is going through secure areas, or running, or going against the flow of passengers. The information can trigger security staff to monitor CCTV of the areas identified.

The TINA project hasn't yet agreed a trial but are in discussions with airport operators and other sectors, as well. ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
6 Obvious Reasons Why Facebook Will Ban This Article (Thank God)
Clampdown on clickbait ... and El Reg is OK with this
So, Apple won't sell cheap kit? Prepare the iOS garden wall WRECKING BALL
It can throw the low cost race if it looks to the cloud
Time Warner Cable customers SQUEAL as US network goes offline
A rude awakening: North Americans greeted with outage drama
Shoot-em-up: Sony Online Entertainment hit by 'large scale DDoS attack'
Games disrupted as firm struggles to control network
BT customers face broadband and landline price hikes
Poor punters won't be affected, telecoms giant claims
Netflix swallows yet another bitter pill, inks peering deal with TWC
Net neutrality crusader once again pays up for priority access
EE plonks 4G in UK Prime Minister's backyard
OK, his constituency. Brace yourself for EXTRA #selfies
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.